Monday, March 7
Reader: “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God”
Response: “and serve only him.’”
Scripture: Luke 4:5-8
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’”
(Luke’s recording of the order of the three temptations differs slightly from Matthew’s and Mark simply mentions that Jesus was tempted forty days in the desert. John makes no mention of the temptation at all. John wrote his gospel some 30-40 years after the Synopics were already in circulation so most of his content is unique from theirs and his readers would most likely have been familiar with the temptation account.)
I want to focus a bit on the nature of temptation Jesus faced and the temptations that face us. Since Jesus is God, could he really be tempted since he never sinned and was perfect and holy? Because all people are sinful humans, everyone gives in to temptation. We are clearly not sinless! In that sense we have never experienced the maximum magnetic pull of temptation because there comes that moment when we quit resisting and yield. We have never faced as strong a temptation as Jesus because we’ve always given in before it gets to that place. In Jesus’ case, however, he never ever yielded which means he experienced the maximum attractiveness of the temptation the devil could create. As a result, he was able to resist stronger temptations than we’ll ever face because he faced the maximum and was victorious over the devil. That strongest temptation you have? . . . He was victorious over it and as a result, he understands what you deal with and is able to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 2:18 & 4:15)
I would now like us to turn our attention to the second temptation. Has Satan’s strategy changed? In the Garden of Eden the first temptation to Eve dealt with food, satisfying the self―though God had provided all the food Adam and Eve needed. The second temptation of Eve was for power. She wanted God’s power of knowing good and evil. As the Scripture says, “She wanted the wisdom it would give her.” She and Adam asserted their own wills, independent from God’s provision and care. Notice, this temptation to Jesus also deals with power, ruling power, but again it goes deeper.
The devil knows Jesus came into the world to set up a Messianic Kingdom and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords in God’s time. What he proposed to Jesus was a compromise. Remember Satan is a liar. He cannot give power in this world to whomever he chooses. His words, “I will give it all to you. . .” were a lie. He has not been given that power by God. He is not equal with God. God has given him permission to be ruler over this world in so far as sin rules the hearts and lives of people, leaders, and nations. Jesus even called him the prince of this world. (Jn. 12:31) Nevertheless, God holds the ultimate reins. Satan can do nothing without God’s permissive will. In this temptation the devil is trying to get Jesus to take a shortcut from the suffering, pain, and agony of the cross. I.e. Jesus can have the power, glory and authority of ruling the kingdoms of the world now and skip the cross altogether. . .if he will bow down and worship Satan.
In the serpent’s ploy in the Garden, when he said you will be “like God,” it was another way of saying, “Be independent; be your own god. Rule your own life.” In doing so our first parents fell headlong right into the devil’s trap and they became citizens of Satan’s rule on earth. They exchanged the worship and communion with their Creator for a lie in believing themselves to be like God. Is it not common today to hear in some circles the encouragement to discover the god, the divine within ourselves? The same old lie of the devil. This tactic has worked relentlessly since the dawn of creation.
For a second time, Jesus answered Satan by quoting from Deuteronomy, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (Deut.6:13) That terse answer put everything in immediate perspective and cut the devil off. Power, glory, and control are not gods. Those earthly reasons were not why Jesus came as he demonstrated on Palm Sunday to the people’s great disappointment when he refused to overthrow Roman occupation and reestablish the kingdom of Israel on earth. Jesus came as a servant to do his Father’s will. For Jesus, the path to power and glory and establishing his Kingdom was through suffering and the cross. He would not be deterred for his obedience to his Father was unwavering.
There is but one God and there are no others. Adam and Eve’s fateful choice made clear man is to worship God and God alone. Humans will never be gods in spite of New Age teaching or Mormon doctrine which says, “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901, fifth president, LDS)
May we not fall to the temptation to strive to attain earthly glory, but rather arise to worship and serve our great God. Let us do so this day and in all the days to follow until we at last stand before the Throne, having come to the end of our earthly journey. I chose a piece of music today which reminds us all what Jesus endured by not taking the devil’s “shortcut” to eliminate the cross. How wondrous is the love of our Savior!
*I am indebted to: Norvel Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke, p.158-164 for some of the insights regarding the temptation of Christ.
Music: “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Fernando Ortega
Lord Jesus, you suffered for me―what am I suffering for you? ―Corrie ten BoomFrom Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.88